We have here an image of the Hohenzollernmodell's main-mast fighting-top photographed from the rear looking forward. My descriptions are in German, "Want" is the German word for shroud, "Seitentakel" is the hanger of the winding tackles. We have nine shrouds on each side. Starting on the port-side shrouds 1 and 2 are a pair; starboard-side 1 and 2 also: Port-side 3 and 4 are a pair and starboard 3 and 4 also etc,. etc. Shrouds 9 port and stb are also one pair, these are the last to be rigged. In this Image one can see that shrouds 9 are to topmost and also the rearmost shrouds. Directly underneath that are shrouds 7 and 8 on the starboard side. If this is the case then the first shrouds to be rigged must have been port-side 1 and 2. However, in all books I have that deal with 17th century rigging, nomatter which Nation, is said that the first to be installed were on the starboard side.
Here's a close-up which might help identify details:
Is it known in which order the shrouds of Vasa were rigged? Looking at the two Images it is almost certain to me, that they started rigging the shrouds on the port-side first. If the last pair to be rigged were 7 and 8 before 9 on the starboard side then it only makes sense that the first to be rigged were 1 and 2 port-side.
Unfortunately, the shrouds did not survive, and there is no clear wear evidence at the masthead or in the top to suggest in what order the shrouds were set up. I would not worry about the order too much. A lot of the "rules" that governed rigging by the later 18th and 19th centuries, and which most researcher use to extrapolate backwards in time, were still being formulated in the 17th century. In the surviving material from Vasa, we see some things that follow the later rules (tablings and roping on the sails for example) and other things that do not (cringles and seizings on the sails, for example). It makes no functional difference at all whether the first pair of shrouds over the masthead are port or starboard, so I can imagine that there is some real-world variation. Important to keep in mind here that the people writing the rules are not the people doing the actual work.
By the way, it is just a top, not a "fighting top." That is a later term.
Thanks for that Fred. Another thing I noticed is that the foremost pair of foremast and mainmast shrouds were protected by leather sleeves, most likely against damage from the sails rubbing against them.
Here's a close-up. You can even see the seams:
On the foremast shrouds these sleeves spanned roughly the space between seven ratlines which on the model was about 14cm which equates to 3m in full-size. The mainmast lower shrouds had these sleeves too, apparently none of the upper mast shrouds had them.
I tried this out on my model, though my sewing isn't high class, this was only an experiment.
This kind of leather chafing gear is seen in a number of places on ships, even today. It was commonly rigged on anchor cables at the hawsehole, for example. An alternative treatment for the forwardmost shroud could be to serve it fully. We have a few pieces of such leather chafing gear among the Vasa finds, although most are small and were found loose.